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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Never Too Old to PLAY!

PLAY. A term that has changed somewhat over the years. Some of my earliest memories are playing in a sandbox that my Daddy built in the backyard. I would spend hours running my hands through the sand, using water to make objects, and burying things so I could go on a scavenger hunt. I climbed trees and found just the right limb to lay back on and read a great book. I loved to swing, slide, and hang upside down on the monkeybars. Rainy days meant the living room turned into a schoolhouse where I was the teacher of several stuffed animals and the next door neighbor who was younger than I. There are days I would give anything to go back and relive one day of my early childhood where I had big plans for a day of hardcore play! I find it sad that as adults, we lose perspective on how important play is. Can we still benefit from moments of play...from a game of 'Ring Around the Rosy', swinging on the swingset, or sliding down the slide? My answer is ABSOLUTELY.

Our profession is becoming more challenging by the day. We have standards to teach, and not enough time to teach them. We have kids who come to school ready to learn, and some who come to school simply to feel safe. We are presented with the task of instilling confidence and success in ALL of them, no matter what their circumstances may be outside of the school walls. We must connect to each child in order to make a difference, and each child needs us to connect in a different way. One of the quickest ways I have found to connect with kids is to allow them to see your PLAYFUL side. The best way to do this, you ask? The answer is simple. PLAY with them! 

I know what you may be thinking... "We don't have time to play. That's what recess is for. There is too much we have to accomplish." Don't get me wrong...I know we have too much to do and not enough time to do it! The simple truth is that kids need to see us as someone other than their teacher. They need to see us as a human being. The best way to do this is to jump right in the middle of them and enjoy them. PLAY with them. Let them teach you what they like to play. Go outside and observe how your students play, who they choose to play with, and how they connect with their peers. You will learn so much. I am not only speaking to elementary teachers. High school kids play as well, and you will see that in between classes, at lunch, and before school. You can also allow them to play in class and join in. The time spent is well worth it. 

We are grown ups, but do we ALWAYS need to act like one? Can we have moments where we just think like a kid and blend in with the students we teach each day? One might say that this would cross a line and we could become too friendly with our students. My response to this thought is that we are the professionals. We know when to join in play and when to step out of it. We learn where the line in the sand is, and how to teach our kids the same. This cannot stop us from being playful with our students. They need us to share this side of us. They need to see that we are real. We can learn from them when we make the choice to join in their world, and listen to their interactions during unstructured time. 

Can you find the teacher? :)
Maybe play and recess time should be part of the instructional are probably learning just as much during this unstructured time as they are in classrooms. They are learning to use social cues, control emotions, solve problems, and express empathy. They learn to accept, forgive, and invite people in. Imagine what we could learn about our students if we involved ourselves more in their play time? 

I challenge you this week to find time to PLAY with your students. Go to recess. Play a board game. Find an app together. Learn a hand jive! Dance. Sing! Swing, and slide! Play comes in many different forms and fashions. The most important thing is for YOU to have FUN with YOUR kids. They will feel closer to you for taking the time to spend with them. You will feel empowered and revived yourself! We have adult lenses, but there is no reason why we shouldn't see the world through the eyes of a child. After all, we are educators...we have super powers, and this better be one of them. 


  1. This is why you are always on my Must Follow list! So proud to call you part of my PLN. I agree so much with this post. We must connect with the students on their level first. That includes games, playground, dances, and sports! Great post!

  2. I really love the question you captioned one of the photos with: "Can you find the teacher?" I think this is at the heart of why play matters so much. If everyone in the room (or the wide open space) is playing and learning together, it is very difficult to pick out any one person that is "leading" the activity. I think you are right to think about the ways that we should be incorporating play into our classroom and the way that we should start looking to children's play as a source of inspiration for learning.

    However, I am one of those people who finds the act of learning to be "fun" and "playful." I find that when I encounter a new problem and solve it through a lot of effort, I am playing as hard as I possibly can. I wonder if the reason why most people don't see play in the classroom is that they don't see learning as play. Discovering something new or building something with someone else (an idea, a project, or simply a discussion) can be recognized as intellectual play and emphasized just as much as physical play. While I recognize that not all kids have an affinity for intellectual play, I would hate to leave behind those that have a capacity to develop it. Do you think recess is a combination of different types of physical and intellectual play, and how can we make sure there is a balance in the classroom (and other learning spaces)?

    P.S. This comment is a part of the #C4C15 project. Find out more here: